Monday, September 5, 2011

Becoming a Better Writer

"A little bit of editing is a dangerous thing."
--Stephen Penner

I realized recently that I'm on the right path in my writing journey, although it was a bittersweet realization. The reason I know I'm becoming a better writer is because I'm not satisfied with what I've written lately. Not that what I've written is bad. It's not. It's pretty good, in fact. Almost very good. With the occasional gem of language or plot twist. But still not good enough.

I have two major works-in-progress which I've written but not yet edited. One is a middle grade adventure novel; the other an adult science fiction novel. I love each of these books and am very proud of what I've written. But I know they need more. A lot more.

I need them to pass the "Who cares?" test. Sure, I care what happens to my characters because I wrote it. But it needs to be better than that. It also needs to be better than my mom caring, or my buddy at work, or my best friend on Twitter. It needs to be better than the dream-literary-agent or acquisitions-editor-at-the-big-publishing-house caring. It has to be so good that the person who doesn't know me at all, who will forget my name after s/he has picked up the book, who isn't going to make any money or fame or friendship or anything off the book--that person has to care.

And right now, my books aren't near good enough for that person to care.

So I will return to them, and edit them, and step back, and edit again, and try to be patient. A year or two ago, I might have thought they were good enough. They were finished, after the sense that I'd written "THE END" on the last page.

But now I know enough to know they aren't good enough. And that's a good thing to know.